When you’re from Burundi, Inès is the Operations Manager of a property that is gradually staking its claim as the best hotel in Bujumbura. Our Sub Editor, Innocent Ndawula, fancies a night or two at Roca Golf Hotel whenever on duty in the smallest East African nation. This time round he stole an hour off Inés’ busy schedule over brunch where she had SPORT-LIGHT entirely on her.
LIFE AT ROCA
Hi Innocent, I hope you’re enjoying our breakfast. We call it the Biggest Breakfast in Bujumbura (BBB). (Ed- Innocent was having Spanish omelet, bacon, beans, pineapple juice and a bowl of cornflakes).
What is new here? I haven’t seen the manager Marcel Brekelmans this time round. Is he on holiday?
Marcel did his time here and is currently on another project. And I am currently working with the Sales and Marketing Manager Dennis Bolten to continue with his good works and ensure Roca grows and grows into the biggest brand in Kigali. It is all about the expansion policy.
You mean there are no new developments here?
I already talked about the Bujumbura Biggest Breakfast (BBB). It is well chosen and I can see you have made your own selection. And it suits every taste. We also have a new call center operation codenamed Rapid Response (RR). It’s the center of guests’ needs. One call and the guests’ needs are sorted. We have invested a lot in quality.
What else have you done to woo over more guests?
We have financed the irrigation system of the Bujumbura Golf Club and strive to make sure it’s functional throughout the year. We invested 25 million Burundi Francs into the project and I can say we are already getting Returns on Investment (ROI). If the golf club is busy throughout the year, then our business is good.
What other Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects have you undertaken lately?
We help farmers here in Burundi to promote their brands. We buy and serve our guests the locally made IGIKERE GOURMENT COFFEE. We even help them with the purchase of seeds. Such market assuredness on their part gives them confidence to cultivate bigger chunks of land and even grow more.
This is a big place. How big is your staff that it’s able to pull off the demands of all the guests amicably?
We are 92 members of staff working in eight different departments. There is House Keeping, Front Office, Foods and Beverages, Kitchen, Accounts, Maintenance, Sales and Marketing and finally Duty Management. The newsletter we publish every four months helps market us further.
What do you tell your staff and how do you keep them motivated?
Of course we pay them well. But first and foremost, we preach to them that they must give the guests a personal touch and personal attention. It is the duty of even the gardener and housekeeper to say hi to the guest every morning. It is not even in our culture but it is a nice thing to do. We have to put up a show. We make the atmosphere very welcoming and the guests end up building relationships with the workers.
How cooperative are they (staff)?
They have to listen (now spotting a tough look). They have to do so or they get in trouble. But most of the time, I don’t have to say anything because they know what to do.
What are the new changes in your entertainment package?
We have broken the monotony of club to club and restaurant to disco which is the norm here in Bujumbura. We have introduced the Jazz Nite at every first Friday of the month. We have also caught the social media bug. We are on Facebook and we run many promotions there. Like now, we have one running where we urge guests to buy a beer at 5,000 Francs and get a free skewer.
And what’s your general feeling at the on-going developments?
Honestly speaking, we are gradually improving. Our internet (Wi-Fi), Hot Water is now better. Our objective is to provide the basics right. And we are getting there. The services we have are really getting good comments on Facebook.
What challenges do you face?
We are seen as expensive. Most of the staff here speak only French. The market has broadened and I have organized English lessons for them to be able to attend to the dynamic and demanding market. The rooms are also few as you have noticed that 76 of the 82 rooms are single and not really enough. We have to come up with Plan B.
How do you personally keep up with all these demands?
It’s a passion. I love what I do. I am here all the time (she says with an infectious smile). I don’t struggle to wake up every morning. My dad (Calixte Mutabazi) is my coach and he is a good hands-on man. It’s great experience learning from him. I have seen Roca grow and grow. I now want us to be the best in the region. For now, we believe we are No.1 in the region.
What are Roca’s short term goals?
We want to keep being the best at what we do. Continue what we are doing well and even improve and finally make guests believe in us more.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
How big is your family?
Just a small one. We are three girls and one boy. I am the eldest at 26, our only brother is Raoul at 24, Bernadette is 17 and the youngest Karole is 15. Sweet little family with our parents Mr. Calixte and Mrs. Rosarie Mutabazi.
Your dad is a soft-spoken man. Tell us why he doesn’t like to talk to the media?
My dad doesn’t hate the media. He loathes it. He always tells media who want to give him big interviews one phrase; “My work will speak for itself,” he always says.
Tell us three things you cannot live without.
My music, cell phone and family.
If you were president of this country, what would be top on your priority list?
To improve tourism in Burundi. We have so much to show the world but it’s hidden.
Who is your favourite female golfer?
Michelle Wie was my best. But I don’t know what has happened to her lately.
Isn’t this hospitality business a big bore?
I never get bored or even pissed off serving my guests. The little stress is good.
Do you have a salary?
Yes I do. (she says with a wry smile)
What do you do in your free-time?
I take a week off sometimes. Go visit my former schoolmates in Cape Town, Dubai, Europe and France. I also chill with friends and have a good laugh.
What is your best holiday destination?
Blue Bay Coast of Tanganyika.
Chelsea, Man Utd or Arsenal?
Chelsea. I am a Blue.
Day or night games?
Night games especially NBA.
House or Electro?
I am a bit into everything. John Legend, Erykah Badu etc etc
Adidas or Puma?
I prefer Nike.
Preferred word that best describes you?
Does success come easily?
No. One has got to work hard for it. I see what my dad has done and I wake up every day to ensure I am the first on the road to keep up the good work.
Are you easily influenced?
No. The hotel is my workplace. I don’t allow mixing it with friendship. I remain hospitable but I draw a line.
What possession do you treasure most?
Can you play any musical instrument?
I would love to play a guitar but I cannot.
What are you currently reading?
A book titled; “Greener On The Other Side,” by Lionel Ntasano. It is a thought-provoking and perceptive novel about Burundi. A worthy read.
What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt?
Success doesn’t come easily.
Apart from golf, what other game do play?
I can play good tennis.
Do you have any regrets?
No. I don’t wish for anything. I take it as I am.
What would you like to know about the future?
I would like to know how far Roca Hotel will go.
What is your preferred drink?
Fruito. It’s passion juice.
Follow your dreams. How consistent are you to achieve them.
A jewel in a bosky bower
In the heart of Bujumbura, Roca Golf Hotel is close to Bujumbura Central Market and Musee Vivant. This four-star hotel is within close proximity of Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium and U.S. Embassy.
The hotel contains 82 rooms & a suite with up-to-date business facilities as well as a restaurant, two bars, seminar facilities, fitness and spa. This is the place to be on your next trip to Bujumbura.
cap: PICTURE PERFECT: Inès belongs to the rare breed of daughters of rich men who strive to ensure that their fathers’ empires record
Full name: Inès Mutabazi
Date of birth: June 22, 1988
Place: Roi Khaled Hospital, Bujumbura
Residence: Rohero, Bujumbura
Golf career: Started as an eight-year-old
Current handicap: 24
Lowest handicap: 24
Career wins: 4 (3 times this year)
Parents: Roseline & Calixte Mutabazi
Siblings: Raoul (24 years), Bernadette (17) and Karole (15)
Belgian School of Bujumbura – Ecole Belge
Cape Town Hotel School – Diploma in Hospitality Management
Cape Town Hotel School – Masters in Human Resource